Watson Island became a financial drain on the City of Prince Rupert after the closure of its pulp mill in 2001, but the city has been able to revitalize the site and turn it into an economic source. (The Northern View file photo)

Burns Lake turns to Prince Rupert for inspiration

Village learns from redevelopment of Watson Island

While the forest products industry has faced several challenges, leaving many communities in B.C. scrambling to redefine their economies, Prince Rupert has found ways to improve its economic outlook.

The Village of Burns Lake is now taking a closer look at the strategies used by the coastal port city to see if they can be applied locally.

“Those communities successful in revitalizing their economies reinvented themselves through a calculated risk, taking a chance on an asset that was previously overlooked,” stated Lorie Watson, the village’s economic development officer, in a report to council.

At the request of Mayor Dolores Funk, the village has investigated Prince Rupert’s successful redevelopment of Watson Island, which became a financial drain on the city after the closure of its pulp mill in 2001.

The revitalized site now hosts Pembina’s LPG export terminal, which is expected to begin operations later this year. According to the village report, the City of Prince Rupert anticipates more than $75 million in revenues — including lease payments and property taxes — over the course of the long-term commercial arrangement.

READ MORE: Pembina announces expansion for Prince Rupert LPG Export Terminal

But the redevelopment of the site didn’t happen overnight, Watson said her report, noting it took an investment of approximately $250 million.

“Many years of planning and hard work, but what they have accomplished is commendable,” she said.

In addition to reviewing the redevelopment of Watson Island, the report also investigated the Prince Rupert Legacy Inc. (PRLI), a wholly subsidiary of the City of Prince Rupert used to acquire, lease and dispose of city lands, among other uses.

Established in 2014 by resolution of council, PRLI maximizes financial benefits to the municipality by enabling previously owned city land to be sold without a Community Charter restriction that limits how the proceeds can be spent.

Since its establishment, PRLI has funded several major infrastructure improvements in the city.

READ MORE: Prince Rupert Legacy Inc. funds to be used for growth

“What we can take from this report is that we also have community assets that can helps us become more sustainable. There are many steps we can take to improve our economic outlook,” Watson wrote in her report, adding this includes shifting the status quo of focusing on municipal needs to developing village assets.

Sheryl Worthing, the village’s chief administrative officer, said now that council has had a chance to review the report, the next step is for them to discuss the development of a “roadmap for asset development” in Burns Lake.

—With files from The Northern View

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